Partnerships for Success – The WMO Fellowship Programme

Since its inception about 50 years ago, the WMO Fellowship Programme has assisted countless National Meteorological and Hydrological Service of WMO Members, providing them with experts whom have gone on to play key roles in the fields of weather, climate and water. Until about a decade ago, WMO partnered with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to fund and implement the Fellowship Programme. When the arrangement ended, the WMO budget and trust funds from Members provided the resources to continue the Programme, but it could barely meet demand, much less fund a capacity increase to cover new areas and provide more fellowships. An urgent solution was needed, so WMO reinvigorated its effort to reach out to new partners.

WMO had already been running successful partnerships in education and training since the 1960s, establishing WMO Regional Training Centres in national institutions, primarily in developing countries. These institutions would open their doors to foreign students in the fields of weather, climate and water. A number of them, or the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services that support them, had been successful in attracting support from governments, who waived fees, provided consular assistance and offered help with student accommodation. In some cases, complementary national bursaries were also provided toward covering the cost of courses. WMO focused its effort for the Fellowship Programme on renewing such partnerships and seeking out new ones.

By doing so, the Organisation was able to increase the numbers of fellows and the range and breadth of topics covered. Even more notable, it achieved this success while ensuring that fellowships had a wide geographic distribution, reflected gender equity and addressed the needs of developing and least developed countries (LDC). This article offers a glimpse of some of the more recent partnership success stories and demonstrates the potential of the WMO Fellowship Programme to deliver the capacity development and training that will be required to implement the Global Framework for Climate Services.

New Fellowship Opportunities

Every year, the WMO Secretary-General circulates a comprehensive letter to Members detailing the fellowship opportunities that are coming up over the next 12 months. In addition to the core offers of education and training at WMO Regional Training Centres, there are now opportunities, usually at Master’s degree level, for study in multi-disciplinary themes in Germany, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. These new offers are designed to support Members in the high priority activity areas of the Global Framework for Climate Services – agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, health and water.

Doing more with partners


In April 2007, WMO and the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation on the implementation of long-term fellowships in the fields of meteorology and operational hydrology at the Bachelor and Master of Science level. This cost-sharing arrangement would cover basic education and specialized training in Chinese institutions and universities, including the WMO Regional Training Centres in Beijing and Nanjing, for candidates from African countries. In 2011, an additional five fellowships were added to the initial agreement for candidates to be selected from LDCs and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), particularly in Asia and the Pacific Regions. Since the signing of the initial MoU, 54 fellowships have been offered to students from 35 countries.

As of August 2012, the training of fellows in China has further expanded to include four months of specialized training through affiliation with experienced forecasters in Beijing. This training will consolidate the meteorological expertise of fellows graduating from the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST). This forecasting programme will be reviewed at the end of the inaugural attachment and is expected to run on an annual basis for all graduate fellows. Furthermore, a full Doctor of Philosophy scholarship at NUIST will be awarded to at least one fellow who demonstrated excellence in his/her postgraduate studies. Discussions are ongoing between WMO and the Ministry of Education to identify how this initiative could be made into a regular occurrence.

All students undertaking meteorology studies in China attend NUIST. In 2011, NUIST offered, with some support from WMO, a further five full fellowships for students from WMO Members. The first five students commenced their studies in September 2012.


In 2012 the Government of the Philippines supported six fellows from the South-West Pacific (WMO Regional Association V) to undertake courses at the WMO Regional Training Centre in the Philippines for meteorological technicians and meteorologists. The fellowships were organized in collaboration with the Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services (PAGASA) in cooperation with the University of the Philippines and WMO. PAGASA are negotiating with the Government of the Philippines to run similar courses in the future. Support from Governments such as the Philippines is critical for many getting expert training for Members in the Pacific who are reliant on air transport and tourism, vulnerable to the damaging effects of tropical cyclones, storm surges and flooding and who are anticipating rising sea levels associate with climate change. For these countries to benefit from weather, climate and water services it is essential to have qualified and competent staff which it will only be possible to provide through partnerships such as this one.

Russian Federation

The Government of the Russian Federation, in conjunction with WMO, offers assistance annually to fellows in meteorology and hydrology, which includes aspects of ecology, economics and management, and oceanography. Over the last forty years more than 170 WMO Fellows – 50 in the last 10 years – have successfully completed studies at the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg. Many have gone on to influential, senior positions in their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK)

Over the years, the UK Met Office has sponsored students to complete university courses across a broad spectrum of subjects – from meteorology to business. The strength of the partnership between the Met Office and WMO was demonstrated in 2011 when the University of Reading created a Master of Science in Applied Meteorology and Climate with Management programme specifically aimed at WMO Members. An MoU signed between WMO and the UK Met Office in March 2012 formalized the working arrangements between the two organizations. Six fellows successfully completed the first course in September 2012 and a further five fellows from different parts of the globe will be undertaking the 2012 Master of Science course.

“The knowledge and skills I acquired during the fellowship programme has brought positive impacts on the quality of weather and climate services of my country” - Ms Irene Bernard KALUMBETE, Tanzania

Ms Irene Bernard Kalumbete

Gender Equity

WMO ensures gender equity in the development and delivery of its programmes. Gender is a key consideration in the selection of beneficiaries of WMO fellowships. Women in developing countries need knowledge and skills to be properly represented and fully integrated into decision-making processes regarding weather, climate and water issues. In 2012 Ewha Womans University in the Republic of Korea started a graduate programme in Meteorology in its Department of Atmospheric Science and Engineering, which will award Master Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. English will be the medium of instruction. In May 2012 WMO entered into an agreement with Ewha to jointly promote the education of women in meteorology. Under this arrangement, Ewha, through WMO, shall provide up to two scholarships per year for study in its Master’s programmes.


Intensifying the scope of knowledge

Much of the activity in the fellowship area is centered on assisting Members to develop a pool of qualified staff, however, hands-on training skills are not neglected. WMO is partnering with a growing number of institutions to provide on-the-job training opportunities.

On-the-job training for fellowship graduates from NUIST at China Meteorological Administration was already mentioned. Countries such as Austria, Germany, Norway, Romania, Spain, France and Switzerland have also been assisting with such training. These programmes deepen the networks that link the meteorological and climatological community, exposing both the hosts and the fellows to different ways of working and help them to identify common issues and concerns.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States of America has been providing fellows with hands-on experience and training in operational weather and climate services for more than 20 years.

The NOAA-WMO cooperation falls into four categories:

  • Africa Desk - Fellowships are granted to professional African meteorologists and scientists training in the Climate Prediction Center for periods of four months. The Africa Desk operates both weather and climate sections. Candidates must commit to return to their duty stations in their home countries for at least one year immediately upon completion of their training;
  • South American and Tropical Desk - The four month programme is tailored to meet the operational needs of a modern forecast office, and to make the best use of available tools/objective forecasting in applied tropical meteorology, hydrology and climate;
  • Pacific Desk - Six-week fellowships are granted to forecasters from South Pacific. Like the South America and Tropical programme this one is also tailored to meet the operational needs of a modern forecast office, and to make the best use of available tools/objective forecasting in applied tropical meteorology, hydrology and climate; and
  • Short attachments to the Hurricane Warning Centre for forecasters from the Caribbean.

The Global Framework for Climate Services

The WMO Fellowship Programme has already started to put partnerships in place to increase the training of experts as required by the Global Framework for Climate Services. It is for this reason that an arrangement was put in place with the UK Met Office for the training of experts from developing countries and LDCs at Master’s level, in the field of applied meteorology and management at the University of Reading. This Master of Science in Applied Meteorology and Climate with Management (AMCM) aims to help participants to develop skills to assist with the provision of effective weather and climate applications/services. This programme has been developed for, and is currently confined to, applicants from developing countries, in particular those who work for National Meteorological Services in the LDCs. It combines the majority of the meteorological and climate science modules of the Applied Meteorology programme with management training. Feedback from the first group of graduates has been very positive.

WMO has also commenced work with Kyoto University, Japan, in its Global Centre of Excellence, on an experimental programme on “Sustainability/survivability Science for a Resilient Society Adaptable to Extreme Weather conditions.” The programme focuses on adaptation to climate change and changes in the frequency, intensity and extent of extreme weather phenomena that seriously affect people and societies around the world. It combines course work with intensive research activities under the close supervision of one or more professors. WMO will continue to work with Kyoto University to ensure the continuation of this programme for considerable length of time.

Sustained human resource development through education and training is a key ingredient of viable meteorological services. Education and training is important in technical matters but also on planning, management, communication and public affairs, and other administrative and support functions. The Fellowship Programme will make a significant contribution to the Global Framework for Climate Service. It addresses the need for development of human capacity with adequate expertise on science and policy issues relating to climate change. This aspect is fulfilled through training of meteorologists, climatologists and hydrologists and specialized training such as that offered at the University of Reading and Kyoto University. Priority needs to be given to the human resource development issues that impact the capacity of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to have influence within their governments and societies, and better serve national development goals.

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